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Complications and Problems after Varicose Vein Surgery

Problems can occur after any operation but Mr Braithwaite takes great care to reduce the chance of any of them. In some people their can be side effects, most of which are temporary:

Infection.

Any cut can get infected. This happens in about 3 in every 100 operations, If you have an infection, the wound, usually the one in the groin, will become red and painful. If this happens, you should consult your GP.

Bruising.

Veins are filled with blood. When removed some blood leaks into the space where the veins have been removed, causing a haematoma. With time the haematoma disappears but your legs can turn some different colours in the meantime. Do not worry, your body will get rid of the bruise.

Hard lumps where the veins were

Occasionally one or two hard lumps remain where the veins were on the leg. These lumps are blood that has clotted under the skin. They are a bit like a blood blister. The lumps will not travel to any other part of the body and they will soften and disappear. The lumpiness is the most common cause for concern after the operation. Do not worry, the lumps disappear with time.

Numbness

Small nerves that allow you to feel you leg being touched can get damaged in the operation. This numbness can happen in about 1 in 10 operations but most people find it is not a problem. In time, the numbness goes as new nerves grow to replace the old ones. If you have a cut behind your knee, there is a small chance that a nerve called the sural nerve gets damaged. If this happens you will notice numbness on the little toe side of your foot. It is a strange feeling that gets better with time.

Recurrence

Varicose veins can be thought of like hair. They grow back. In some people veins come back or appear in new areas. If the long saphenous vein is removed, recurrence does not normally occur for over 5 years. If it is not removed, the veins can come back more quickly. For more information on recurrent varicose veins click here.

Swollen ankles

If your groin has been cut, the inflammation can reduce the flow of fluid called lymph through your lymphatics and glands. If this happens, your ankle or leg can become swollen if you stand for long periods. Swelling can also happen if you wear tight clothing on your legs.

As the body heals, any swelling should disappear.

Residual veins

In some people (about 1 in 100 of Mr Braithwaite's patients), particularly those with multiple veins, one or two are left untreated. If these residual veins trouble you, then there are treatments that may help.

Spider veins

Some people develop tiny veins at the site of their avulsion scars. This does not happen to everyone and it is not known why spider veins appear.

Tattooing

Anything on the skin at the time of the operation can be pushed under the skin to cause a tattoo. Mr Braithwaite, normally does not cut the skin exactly where he marks someone's leg so he has not yet seen tattooing in anyone he has treated.

Seroma

If there has been some bleeding after the operation, a small blood clot under the skin called a haematoma can form. This usually goes away on its own. If the haematoma is over the shin bone, a lump may appear. The lump is often filled with clear fluid and is caused a seroma. If it occurs, it can be treated by taking the fluid away in the clinic using a small needle.

Muscle or calf pain

If one of the veins that has been removed continues to bleed after the operation, there can be bleeding into the muscle of the leg. This happens very rarely but if it does, it may be painful to walk. If the pain is in the calf it is best to check with your GP or specialist, to ensure that the pain is not from a Deep Vein Thrombosis.

Skin staining

In some people, the skin can still be dark in colour several months after surgery. Rarely it can be permanent. The staining occurs because some people's bodies do not remove all of the bruise that can happen after the operation. This leaves some of the colouring of blood (iron) under the skin. If this happens, the skin colour can change with exercise. There is little that can be done if this problem occurs but it is a rare complication.

Most people (98%) are happy with the results of their varicose vein surgery. If you have any questions, write them on a piece of paper and bring them with you to your next meeting with Mr Braithwaite or your specialist.